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What Can I Give?

As we enter this holiday season, it’s easy for our minds to shift quickly to gifts. What gift will I find for mom? What shall I give my brother? What about my children? My significant other? Then, we think about work, especially in this COVID-19 social distancing era, what do you do for your staff or coworkers? What could possibly be meaningful after such a challenging year?

Looking back, I remember an unexpected but thoughtful gift I received. I was summoned to a meeting at the last minute, and at a time that was not at all convenient. I was supposed to be setting up for a unique, extremely creative, and fun training experience, but instead, my VP insisted that I drop everything and attend the meeting. I went to the meeting but to be honest, I wasn’t happy and I’m ashamed to admit it but my dissatisfaction probably showed in my body language. And then it happened…the CEO came in the room. Everyone was at a loss as to why he was there until he began to speak. He shared how much I had done for the company recently and he wanted to personally thank me and give me a bonus for my hard work. WOW! I was surprised. More like shocked! And, while the bonus was quite generous, when the money was long gone, it was his gift of kind words that I remember most. His words of heartfelt gratitude meant a lot to me then, and still even today. That same simple yet powerful gift is available for all of us to give.

During this holiday season and throughout the year, remember to acknowledge the unique talents of each employee. Take the time to make your team members feel special by verbalizing the value they bring to the team and expressing your appreciation. Here are a few simple ways to show your gratitude.

Listen to their ideas. Really listen! Being interested in their ideas and thoughts validates their value and can provide new insight while enhancing team outcomes.

Say thank you often! It sounds simple but when done sincerely, it can be quite impactful.

Have team members complete a recognition form that includes questions regarding how they like to be recognized (publicly or privately) and include questions to learn the unique preferences of each person, such as their favorite candy, drink preferences like coffee or tea, hobbies, and favorite color. Use their responses to personalize their recognition.

Mail a handwritten note of thanks to their home. Tell your coworker or employee about how something they did made a difference to you, the team, or the organization.

Recognize someone at a team meeting or in front of the leadership team. Give them credit for their contributions to a specific project or the hard work they do all year. Be specific.

Be respectful of their time. Start meetings on time and end on time or early. Let them know that you value their time by paying attention and reducing or eliminating the small things you do that might interrupt their day and impact their productivity.

Recognize special life events like their birthday and work anniversary. This can be a simple comment, a small gift, or a surprise cake, however, be careful and know how they like to celebrate! I surprised a team member with a birthday cake and to add to the merriment, I invited three other team members to join me. Unfortunately, the birthday girl was horrified. She didn’t want anyone to know it was her birthday. Lesson learned.

Provide professional development opportunities. Conduct development conversations throughout the year and consider offering lunch and learn sessions, providing flexibility for an employee to complete a college course, encourage employees to take advantage of development opportunities offered by your organization, or support their membership in professional organizations.

Get to know your employee’s behavioral preferences. How do they approach challenges? How do they tend to influence others? What is their preferred work pace? Do they like systems and processes or do they like to blaze a new path? What motivates them? What is their preferred communication style? Consider providing your team the opportunity to complete a DiSC profile that will help you, as well as the employees, learn ways to adapt styles for better communication and teamwork while recognizing the contributions and value of others. And, it will help you to gain a better understanding of the unique perspective each of them brings to the team.

If you are interested in learning more about the DiSC concept and how it may benefit you and your organization, contact Julie Olsen at


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